Donald Trump's historic hush money trial begins today: Here's why it's unprecedented - Hindustan Times

Donald Trump's historic hush money trial begins today: Here's why it's unprecedented

Apr 15, 2024 10:01 AM IST

All you need to know about Donald Trump's hush money trial that begins on Monday and expected to continue for weeks.

United States' former American president, Donald Trump is set to face a criminal trial for the first time in the nation's history on Monday, barring any last-minute developments.

FILE - Former President Donald Trump leaves Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in New York. (AP)
FILE - Former President Donald Trump leaves Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in New York. (AP)

Charges against Donald Trump

Donald Trump is facing 34 felony charges related to falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. He allegedly paid her to silence allegations of extramarital affairs. If convicted, Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, could face a sentence ranging from probation to up to four years in prison, according to legal experts.

The case centers on a series of transactions made by Trump to repay Cohen that were recorded as legitimate legal services. Trump has pleaded not guilty and has denied an affair with Daniels.

However, the prosecution alleges that Trump reimbursed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for the hush money payment through falsified checks, violating federal election laws and exceeding campaign contribution limits. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has attempted to delay the trial without success.

Stormy Daniels said she had a one-time sexual liaison with Trump years before his first White House run. Cohen paid Daniels to stay quiet about the alleged affair.

Former Trump associate, Cohen, is expected to testify against his former boss about the origin of those payments, how they were accounted for, and who knew what. He had pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to these payments in 2018.

Also Read: Donald Trump makes stunning claims ahead of hush money trial

Why is the Hush Money Trial historic?

As Donald Trump's case will be heard in Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom in downtown Manhattan, for the first time in US history a former President will stand trial on felony charges.

It becomes significant as the hearing will coincide with Trump's election campaign ahead of the Presidential elections in November. Despite his legal team’s best efforts, Trump will now face the judgment of a New York jury.

Political Relevance of the Hush Money Trial

The case is expected to be divisive, with many Republican voters supporting Trump despite his legal challenges. Trump has accused both Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and trial Judge Juan Merchan of bias against him.

"This trial will likely be seen by some as politically motivated, while others will view it as addressing illegal activities, such as paying off a porn star," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York City-based political consultant told USA Today.

As the trial approaches, public opinion appears divided, with a significant portion of registered voters viewing the charges as serious. The trial could serve as a platform for Trump to rally his base and demonstrate his political prowess, or it could further damage his reputation, depending on the outcome and public perception.

What to expect in court during Hush Money Trial

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday, marking just over a year since Bragg announced the indictment against Trump. The trial is anticipated to last between six and eight weeks.

The trial will begin with jury selection, followed by opening arguments and witness testimonies. Trump has indicated that he plans to testify in his defense.

Both sides frame the case as being about election interference, though they refer to different elections. Bragg contends that Trump falsified records to unlawfully interfere with the 2016 election, while Trump claims the charges are part of an effort to undermine his 2024 election prospects.

While the trial will not be televised, reporters will be present in the courtroom, and proceedings will be streamed in at least one overflow room. Potential witnesses include Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and Michael Cohen.

Trump is represented by Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles, experienced attorneys who have previously served as federal and state prosecutors, respectively.

Throughout the trial, Trump may continue to use social media to express his views and criticize the judge, as he has done in previous cases.

What happens if Trump is convicted in hush money trial?

If convicted, Trump is likely to appeal the decision. The potential implications of incarceration for a former president with around-the-clock Secret Service protection remain unclear.

Despite some commentators suggesting that other cases against Trump are more significant, the trial is seen by many as an important step in holding the former president accountable if he broke the law.

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